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Choosing Monitoring Tools for the SMB

Small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) tend to get overlooked when it comes to solutions that fit their needs for infrastructure monitoring. There are many tools that exist today that cater to the enterprise, where there’s a much larger architecture with many moving parts. The enterprise data center requires solutions for monitoring all the systems within it that an SMB might not have. The SMB or remote office/branch office (ROBO) is a much smaller operation, sometimes using a few servers and some smaller networking gear. There may be a storage solution in the back-end, but it’s more likely that the data for their systems is stored on a local drive within one or all of their servers. It seems unfair for the SMB to be ignored as developers typically work to create solutions that will fit better in an enterprise architecture than in a smaller architecture, but that’s the nature of the beast. There’s more money in enterprise solutions, with enterprise licensing agreements (ELAs) reaching into the millions of dollars for some clients. It would make sense that enterprise software is more readily available than SMB software, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions out there for the SMB.

Find What’s Right for YOU

Don’t pick a solution with more than what you need for the infrastructure within your organization. If your organization consists of a single office with three physical servers, a modem/router, and a direct attached storage (DAS) solution, you don’t need an enterprise solution to achieve the systems monitoring. There are many less expensive or open-source server monitoring tools out there that contain a lot of documentation to help you get through installation and configuration. Enterprise solutions aren’t always the answer just because they are “enterprise solutions.” Bigger isn’t always better. If a solution with a support agreement is more in line with your expectations, there are quite a few providers that can offer an SMB-class monitoring solution for you.

Don’t Overpay

Software salespeople are all about selling, selling, selling. Many times, salespeople are sent along on a client call with a solutions engineer (SE) who has more technical experience than the salesperson. Focus more attention on the SE and less on the salesperson. There’s no need to shell out a ton of money for an ELA that’s way more than what you need for your SMB infrastructure. Many times, quality is associated with costs, and that’s just plain false. When it comes to choosing a monitoring tool for your SMB, "quality over quantity" should be your mantra. If you don’t require 24/7/365 monitoring and SLAs at the platinum level with two-minute response time, don’t buy it. Find a tool that fits your SMB budget, and don’t feel you are slighted because you didn’t buy the slightly shiny, more expensive enterprise solution.

Pick a Vendor That Will Work for YOU

Software vendors, especially those that work to develop large enterprise monitoring solutions, don’t always have the best interests of the SMB in mind when building a tool. By focusing your search on vendors that scale to the SMB market, you’ll find that the sales process and the support will be tailored to the needs of your organization. With vendors building scalable tools, customization becomes a key selling point. Vendors can cater to the needs and requirements of the customer, not the market.

Peer Pressure is Real

Don’t take calls from software vendors that cater only to the needs of enterprise-scale monitoring solutions. Nothing against enterprise monitoring solutions—they’re needed for the enterprise. However, focusing on the chatter and the “latest and greatest” types of marketing will make your SMB feel even smaller. There’s no competition. Pick what works for your SMB. Don’t overpay. Find a vendor that will support you. By putting all these tips in place, you can find a monitoring tool for your SMB that won’t make you feel like you had to settle.
Greg Stuart
Greg is a technologist at heart. He has spent the last 20 years supporting various information technology projects in both the private and public sector.…
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